Alfreton, Derbyshire born inside left Freddie Wheatcroft began his football career with Alfreton Town, from where he joined First Division Derby County on amateur forms in May 1903, making his Football League debut against Everton in April 1904. Wheatcroft first played for Southern League Swindon Town as an amateur the same year, making his Swindon Town debut against Brentford the same November, when he scored 8 goals in 15 matches for The Robins during their 1904-05 campaign including an FA Cup hat-trick in the qualifying rounds. He also played 3 matches for Derby County either side of the New Year, scoring all of Derby’s goals in a 2-1 home defeat to Everton and a 3-2 home defeat to Sheffield United.
During 1905-06 Wheatcroft scored 5 goals in 21 appearances for Swindon Town and scored once in 2 drawn matches for Derby County, both against Nottingham Forest, and the following season he first played football for Fulham, helping them to win the Southern League Championship in 1905-06 and 1906-07, still an amateur. He also made his final appearances for Derby County as an amateur before turning professional with them in February 1907, but after a further 10 appearances for The Rams before the season end as Derby County suffered relegation, he spent much of 1907-08 in the reserves and signed for Southern League club Reading in the 1908 close season after 8 goals in 25 appearances for Derby.
He had a single season at Reading before re-joining Swindon Town in the summer of 1909, and it was at Swindon that Wheatcroft enjoyed his longest spell and produced his best form as a footballer. At Swindon he linked up again with former Alfreton Town and Derby County team mate and forward Sammy Lamb, and he scored 22 goals in 38 appearances throughout the 1909-10 campaign, playing as Swindon both finished runners up to Brighton & Hove Albion in the Southern League and reached the FA Cup semi final, where they lost to eventual winners Newcastle United at White Hart Lane, and also as they won The Dubonnet Cup when they beat Barnsley in Paris in May 1910, although it’s uncertain whether he played in the Final.
Wheatcroft then scored 16 goals in 32 appearances as Swindon won the Southern League Championship in 1910-11. The Championship was confirmed on 22nd April 1911, when the previous year’s winner, Brighton & Hove Albion, came to The County Ground, but goals from Tout, Wheatcroft and Fleming secured a 3-0 home win. Two days later, they meet Brighton again in the Southern Charity Cup Final and when they draw 0-0, a replay was arranged, meaning that the two sides meet three times in five days. The Robins complete their double, with a goal from Archie Bown shortly before half-time taking the Cup to Wiltshire.
In September 1911 Wheatcroft scored in Swindon’s FA Charity Shield appearance, when they lost 8-4 to Manchester United at Stamford Bridge, and he again featured in the 1912 FA Cup semi final team when Swindon lost 1-0 to eventual winners Barnsley, avenging themselves of their Parisian defeat two years earlier, in a replay at Meadow Lane, Nottingham. Before the start of the 1912-13 season, Town went on a tour of Argentina, just six weeks after the sinking of The Titanic. They played eight matches in total, winning six and drawing two – beating teams such as Estudiantes de la Plata, and select sides from Argentina and Uruguay.
When they get back, despite an injury-hit campaign, The Robins managed to finish Southern League runners up, just two points behind champions Plymouth Argyle, Wheatcroft scoring 13 goals during the campaign. In 1913-1914 he scored 9 goals in 30 Southern League matches which saw Swindon again crowned Southern League Champions even though their margin could not have been much smaller. Both teams earned fifty points but Swindon’s goal average was 1.98 whereas that of runners up Crystal Palace was 1.88. Wheatcroft remained in the first team until the onset of the First World War forced the suspension of League football in May 1915 , again reaching double figures in the campaign for the fifth time in six seasons, however a match at Bristol Rovers in April 1915 would prove his last for Swindon Town having scored 96 goals in 242 appearances for The Robins over both spells at the club.
Like many other young British adult males, Wheatcroft answered his nation’s call and enlisted to fight during the First World War. He was conscripted into the East Surrey Regiment as a private in May 1916 and 12 months later had risen to the rank of Second Lieutenant. Wheatcroft was killed in action in Bourlon on 26th November 1917 while conducting a retreat during the Battle of Cambrai and is buried in Anneux Military Cemetery.
NB this image of Wheatcroft appears to have been “grafted” on to Swindon’t 1910 team photograph.